Accretive Health accuses AG of misleading public

Lori Swanson
Accretive Health is fighting a lawsuit and investigation by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, shown in this file photo.
Derek Montgomery for MPR

The health contractor subject to a lawsuit and investigation by Attorney General Lori Swanson is fighting back.

Accretive Health on Wednesday released a letter one of the company's lawyers sent to state Solicitor General Alan Gilbert, who works for Swanson. In it, attorney Andrew Clubok accused the attorney general's office of a "public campaign of misinformation" and said allegations released by Swanson last week have hurt the company.

Chicago-based Accretive Health had been working with Fairview Health Services and North Memorial Medical Center to collect debts through "revenue cycle" contracts.

Swanson filed a lawsuit against Accretive Health in January alleging the company broke federal and state privacy and debt collection laws. And last week her office released a six volume "compliance review" of Fairview's relationship with Accretive Health, alleging aggressive collection tactics by Accretive Health employees such as asking emergency room patients for payment at their bedsides.

Fairview has since ended that contract with Accretive Health, and Clubok said in Wednesday's letter that the hospital system is also terminating another contract with Fairview — one that involves controlling costs and improving the quality of care.

The letter follows documents filed in federal court on Monday asking a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

Besides denying some of Swanson's specific allegations against Accretive Health, Clubok accused the attorney general of releasing confidential documents containing competitively sensitive information. He also said the attorney general had ignored her responsibility to conduct negotiations regarding the federal lawsuit in good faith.

"[I] ask that you work with us to immediately change course," Clubok wrote. "These lapses have already harmed Minnesota patients who deserve quality care at a more affordable price and the tens of thousands of employees who work for Fairview and Accretive Health in Minnesota and elsewhere."

In a written response, the attorney general's office said it has a long history of conducting compliance reviews of health care organizations. The statement said the Fairview review released last week was based on more than 100,000 pages of documents and interviews with people, including Fairview leaders.

"The compliance review is accurate and documented by the facts," the statement read. "Patients state that they have been victims of aggressive debt collection tactics orchestrated by Accretive in hospital emergency rooms and at patient bedsides. In its press statement, this company continues to ignore the dignity and rights of those patients."

Clubok said attorneys will continue to work with Accretive Health to "respond to the allegations you have made and to explore legal remedies for the damages that have already resulted."

Accretive Health's stock price has lost about half its value in the days after the attorney general released her investigation of the company's relationship with Fairview. It closed at $8.71 on Wednesday.